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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New

This week’s list of data news highlights covers August 8-14, 2015 and includes articles about how government agencies can now use Yelp data tools and how IBM’s Watson is getting in the Fantasy Football Game.

1. Sharing Data to Boost Exports

PayPal and the U.S. Department of Commerce have created a data-sharing working group focused on making it easier for businesses to access economic data about commercial exports in the United States. The working group—a product of the Commerce Department’s Data Advisory Council, which serves to advise federal leaders on how to make better use of data—is to create a freely accessible data platform to help smaller businesses make more informed decisions about the international marketplace and increase their exports.

2. Closing the Data Skills and Gender Gaps

Data science education company Galvanize has partnered with IBM for a new initiative to encourage women to pursue an education and career in data science. IBM will offer tuition assistance to women participating in Galvanize courses related to data science and engineering, create internship opportunities and capstone projects, and provide Galvanize courses with analytics technology.

3. Opening Data for a Less Stressful Commute

Cobb County, Georgia has launched the website cobbcommute.org to share real-time traffic information with its residents to help ease commutes. The site includes data on travel speeds, road closures, congestion, and video feeds from cameras monitoring approximately 100 intersections. The county already collected this data to help manage traffic flows and decided to open it to the public to supplement commercially available applications that may not have as reliable data on things like road construction.

4. Government Agencies Get to Use Yelp

The General Services Administration has released new terms of service governing how agencies can use of crowdsourced-review website Yelp. The new rules come after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested to use Yelp’s application program interface (API) to incorporate Yelp data into an app designed to prevent drunk driving. Under the new rules, agencies can now use the Yelp API to build in review platforms for agency products or services to improve customer service.

5. Census Bureau Picks Open Data Winners

The Census Bureau has selected the five winning finalists from its City Software Development Kit (City SDK) Data Solutions Challenge. The challenge called on civic hackers to use the bureau’s new City SDK tool, designed to make census data accessible and easy to use, to create apps that addressed social problems. Finalists include an app that scores areas of Minneapolis based on accessibility for people with disabilities and an app that connects Chicago grocery stores with people interested in buying older produce and perishable food, rather than let it get thrown out. The winning app, based on public vote, will be announced August 20th.

6. Digitizing the Ocean Floor

Researchers at the University of Sydney have created the world’s first digital map of seafloor geology, which provides data on 40 years of changes to the composition of the ocean floor. The publicly accessible map, constructed using data from over 15,000 seafloor samples, will help scientists understand the impact of environmental changes on the world’s oceans.

7. Watson Ups Your Fantasy Football Game

A new startup called Edge Up Sports is using IBM’s cognitive computing system Watson to optimize users’ fantasy football rosters. The company’s app, called Edge Up, uses traditional analysis of football statistics alongside Watson’s sentiment analysis and natural language processing abilities to glean information from news articles that discuss a player’s performance and even actions that happen off the field to help users make more educated decisions about their fantasy team.

8. L.A. Wants Data-Driven Transportation

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a transportation plan called Mobility Plan 2035 that details policy initiatives to shape the future of transit in the city, with a particular focus on data-driven decision making. The overall goal of the plan is to encourage use of more traffic-friendly transportation options, such as public transportation and bicycles, and the plan outlines several objectives that rely on open data and analytics to accomplish this. For example, the city will aim to provide real-time transportation data at all major transit stations by 2020 and install parking occupancy-detection networks for 50 percent of the city’s on-street parking by 2035.

9. Fighting Fires with Networked Cameras

Eight counties in California have installed networks of fire-detection cameras that can help rapidly identify fires in remote areas once they start and sound an alarm. Unlike the traditional method of fire detection,which relies on manned fire lookouts, the cameras can operate around the clock and use infrared sensors and smoke tracking software to automatically alert fire departments when a scene changes.

10. Scoring Alzheimer’s Risk

The NorthShore University Center for Brain Health in Chicago is building risk prediction models for Alzheimer’s disease with data from electronic health records. By analyzing data on conditions such as smoking and hypertension—factors known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease—researchers will be able to develop a risk score for individual patients to guide treatment decisions, as well as gain a better understanding of yet-unknown factors that may put patients at risk for the disease.

Image: Bernard Gagnon.

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